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An Iznik polychrome pottery dish, Turkey, circa 1575

Of deep rounded form with bracketed rim, decorated in underglaze blue, viridian green, relief red, outlined in pale greyish-black, with tulips and roses emanating from a leafy tuft, the rim with breaking wave pattern, the reverse with alternating floral motifs.

This dish displays the characteristics of the first period of Iznik vessels produced with underglaze red. In several ways, it represents a transitional phase in which the decorators of Iznik drew on established practices whilst learning how to use the red to greatest effect (Atasoy and Raby 1989, p.230). The flowers, notably the long-stemmed tulips, sway in a style that is continued from the so-called ‘Damascus’ dishes, a style that was in keeping with that favoured in illumination by the then court artist Kara Memi. The grassy tuft from which an array of Ottoman flowers emerge was also his invention (ibid., p.222). The grey-green of this piece was phased out after this decade to be replaced by a richer emerald green which was able to establish a more equitable colour balance with the red.

Similar bowls depicting a spray of tulips and roses, the rim with a breaking wave pattern, appear in the same volume, p.222, especially nos.481 and 484. The first was sold at Sotheby’s, 9 Oct. 1979, Lot 85, and the other is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Comparable pieces are in the Musée National de la Renaissance, published in Hitzel and Jacotin 2005, p.140, no.152, and the Gulbenkian Museum, shown in Ribeiro 1996, no.52 (source http://islamic-arts.org)